Lenses I Love: Canon 50mm f1.4

Thank you to the countless number of you who have sent emails and left comments asking what lenses I shoot with. Well today, I am going to tell you. I am going to start off with the lens I feel has the most value for the money. The Canon 50mm f1.4

**I shoot with Canon, so I can’t speak for Nikon, but I would assume that the Nikon 50mm f1.4 is very similar in features and image quality**

When you first buy your DSLR, it comes with a standard kit lens. While this lens is great for starting out, it does have many limitations. Naturally, as you become more experienced with your camera and learn more about photography, you are going to want to invest in a new lens. With sooo many lenses out there, it can seem like a daunting task.

As you have probably noticed, lenses aren’t cheap. So, it is a bit of an investment in selecting one. In deciding which lens is right for you, you need to think about what you shoot? I assume that if you are looking at Taylor Takes a Taste, you have an interest in taking pictures of food! I also realize that many of you are not professional photographers and want a lens that will take pictures of your family, pets and scenic shots.

Coming in at a little under $400 the Canon 50mm f1.4 is in my opinion the best valued lens out there. It is incredibly fast lens and the fixed 50mm focal length is great for both people and food. It is neither a specific food lens nor portrait lens, but can handle both tasks very well. To give you an idea of what the lens is capable of, here are some food shots I used the 50mm for.

Here are some shots of people and scenery.

As you might have noticed, these are all shots from the various tailgates I have been to over the last 2 football seasons. When tailgating, the 50mm is my go to lens. I keep it attached to my camera at all times. I never know what food item or fan I will come across next, so I need to be able to shoot people, scenics, and food all with one lens. It is also a light weight and rather unobtrusive lens which makes it great for walking around with.

I love the 50mm focal length! Using a fixed(fixed means it doesn’t zoom there is only one focal length)  lens makes you move around instead of just relying on your zoom. I am shooting on a full frame camera body so there is no crop factor. So if you are shooting on a camera body with a crop factor keep in mind that the 50mm would act like a 65mm or an 80mm so your photos would be closer in. Just keep that in mind. I will explain more about crop factors and full frame cameras in a future post.

So, I said that the 50mm f1.4 is a fast lens. Well let me explain what that means. A fast lens is one that has a large aperture so a f number that is really low. The larger the aperture the lower the f number. Basically a lens with large aperture lets more light into your camera allowing you to shoot in lower lighted environments easily. It also gives you a very shallow depth of field and the bokeh effect. Your kit lens probably has an aperture of 3.5. With the Canon 50mm f1.4, you can open up to f 1.4. This means that you can shoot easily in low light and have that shallow depth of field and bokeh effect many people want!

Here are some shots taken at night at an aperture of f1.4

This was taken at an Alabama football game last November. It was around 7 oclock and pretty much dark. The ability to shoot at f1.4 allowed enough light into the camera to get an image and still keep my shutter speed at 1/100 of a second. I did have to increase my ISO to 6400.

 

 

Again this image was f1.4 at 1/100sec at ISO 6400. In these dark conditions the ability to shoot at f1.4 is incredibly valuable.

The f1.4 aperture is not only useful at night. It is great for a shallow depth of field. Generally, when I am shooting for a shallow depth of field I will use f2.0. I have found it to be sharper than f1.4 and I still get the shallow depth of field I am looking for. Here are some examples at f2.

After looking through the thousands of tailgating photos I have taken, I noticed that 56.6% of the photos were taken with the 50mm. Of those, 25.4% of them were taken at f3.2. So I would say that my favorite aperture to shoot at would be f3.2 Here are some examples at f3.2

As you can see, the Canon 50mm f1.4 is a great all around lens. I am NOT saying you have to buy this lens. I am just showing you how I have used it. Any lens upgrade you make is a significant purchase, so make sure you really understand what you are buying. A great thing to do is rent a lens before you buy it For $40 you could try the lens out for a week and see if it is the lens you want!

In my next lens post, I will address what a macro lens is and talk about the Canon 100mm Macro f2.8.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or email me. I realize that the comments aren’t showing up. I am working on getting them fixed. i receive and appreciate you comments, not sure why they aren’t appearing.

 

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Comments

  1. Kelly says

    You really have a knack for making this stuff sound easy. It’s a lot better than reading the camera manual and wanting to pull your hair out. I am glad you have decided to do this – it’s VERY helpful. (But I do miss the cupcake shots…!)

  2. says

    Very helpful post! I really appreciate how you describe the f-stops you use most often and what you are trying to achieve when you use them. As an amature photographer, this is something I continuously struggle with.

  3. says

    Great explanation of this lens. It’s definitely the next one I am looking to buy! Then, a new camera body…still working with the rebel xti! ISO 800 is my max…so sad. ;)

  4. says

    Thanks for posting this. I’m in the market for a new camera and lens (I still shoot with a P&S). Sometimes I wonder what are the differences between lenses and how can they be used. This post is very informative.

  5. says

    What a lovely review. Thanks for that! I saved up and bought this a few months ago and my photographic adventures just leapt and spread their wings. I love it! so so much. Love especially experimenting with dark moody food photography. Now I just need something that isn’t quite so macro which I can use for both food and travel without constantly changing lenses.

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